Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Man For Others

I was catching up on all the Ondoy news I had missed because I was abroad sans laptop. Scouring various blogs and message boards, I encountered tales of horror and tales of woe. Then I came across this story:

It is the story of an 18-year-old construction worker, Muelmar Magallanes, who, after evacuating his own family, went back to save his neighbors from being swept away when raging floodwaters engulfed their neighborhood - ultimately at the cost of his own life.

Below are excerpts, but I urge you to read the full story in the link I provided above:

"An 18-year-old construction worker braved rampaging floods in the Philippines to save more than 30 people, but ended up sacrificing his life in a last trip to rescue a baby girl and her mother who were being swept away on a styrofoam box.

He ended up making many trips, and eventually saved more than 30 people from drowning, witnesses and survivors said.

Tired and shivering, Mr Magallanes was back on higher ground with his family when he heard Ms Penalosa screaming as she and her baby were being swept away on the polystyrene box they were using in an attempt to cross the swift currents.

He dived back in after the mother and daughter, who were already a few metres away and bobbing precariously among the debris floating on the brown water.

"I didn't know that the current was so strong. In an instant, I was under water. We were going to die," said Ms Penalosa, her eyes welling with tears and voice choking with emotion.

"Then this man came from nowhere and grabbed us. He took us to where the other neighbours were, and then he was gone," Ms Penalosa said.

Ms Penalosa and other witnesses said an exhausted Mr Magallanes was simply washed away amid the torrent of water.

Neighbours found his body on Sunday, along with 28 others who perished amid Manila's epic flooding."

It was a heartbreaking tale, yet at the same time it was an affirmation of the human spirit. It made me wonder what makes a man a hero. I'm certain Muelmar did not do what he did out of some lofty goals of heroism or glory. He must have done it instinctively, without thinking. Like the fable of The Frog And The Scorpion,  what drove him to go back again and again in the face of death was beyond him: it was his nature. As his grieving father eulogized:

"Standing next to his coffin, Mr Magallanes' parents paid tribute to their son.
'He always had a good heart,' said his father, Samuel.
'We had already been saved. But he decided to go back
one last time for the girl.' "

We naturally think of our own families first before we think of others. Nothing wrong in that; it's in our nature. But to think beyond our families - that is something else altogether. To think of the welfare of others unrelated to us by kinship or friendship. It's called altruism.

When a loved one - be it friend or family member - tries to do something dangerous for others, we often tell them "Don't be a hero." For a good reason: heroes often die.

I cannot imagine the terrible anguish Muelmar's mother must have felt. She must've raised him well, to be a good, dutiful son, and to be considerate of others.

 His mother, Maria Luz, wept as she described her son as incredibly brave.
"He saved so many people, but ended up not being able to save himself."

How bittersweet is it to know that your son lived his life according to the values you taught him, but that he would pay the ultimate price for embodying those selfsame values?

What price, heroism?

There are other tales of courage, heroism, and selflessness amid the tragedy that was Ondoy. But I pay tribute to one Muelmar Magallanes for saving the lives of others at the cost of his own, including a mother and child who were not even his.

You are truly a man for others.

Godspeed, good sir.

Monday, September 28, 2009


I've just returned tonight from an overseas trip that I was supposed to begin posting about on my way to the airport last Thursday. In light of the tragic events that transpired afterwards, it's a good thing I forgot to hit the "Publish Post" button before I frantically flew out the door half-packed and half-witted due to a late night and an early flight.

The weather had been fine when we left although we had known a tropical depression was supposed to be on its way. The first frantic texts came in on Friday evening. I, like everyone else I was with, was blissfully unaware of what was happening in Manila until the texts started pouring in.

My first notice of the unfolding tragedy was when my maid texted, asking where I kept the spare keys to my cars. Puzzled, I naturally demanded why she needed to know that. "Sir, tumataas na po ang tubig, baka pasukin ang kotse ninyo. Baha na po dito sa Maynila, walang tigil ang ulan." was her reply.

As if on cue, one by one the people in my group started receiving news about the grave situation. Like the flood, the news - and its corresponding level of grimness - came first in trickles, before swelling and surging like a deluge. "Nag-evacuate na daw sina Carrie sa Marikina! Lampas-tao daw ang tubig!" "Nasa bubong na daw sina Frank at yung pamilya niya. Ganun kataas ang tubig!" "Panic buying na daw, hanggang labas ang pila sa Monterey!"

People started frantically texting their families and loved ones until one by one, the responses ominously stopped. "Nawalan na daw ng koryente sa Paranaque!" "Wala nang signal ang cell sites!""Diyos ko, ano na kaya ang nangyayari sa atin?"

Some fellow bachelors in my group worried about their unattended apartments and the belongings left exposed there to the mercies of fate. The married ones worried about their kids. While the younger singles fretted about their families and other loved ones.

But what could we do? We were miles and miles away. And even if we were in Manila - what could we possibly have done to prevent the tragedy from happening at all?

Helplessness comes in many forms. Those truly, truly helpless were our poor countrymen who bore the full brunt of this merciless catastrophe. Those who huddled on their rooftops in the night as swirling waters submerged their earthly belongings. Those who were swept away and lost in the raging rivers of death and destruction. And those who were stranded as traffic ground to a standstill, sitting ducks in stalled vehicles while the elements laid waste around them.

We, thousands of miles away, were also stranded in helplessness. And because we were away on what was initially a big, exciting, yet official business function, we could not stay in our rooms desperately watching CNN for updates after all the texts from home went dead.

We could only be impotent, hosted in a First World country, smiling while mingling with international VIPs as free champagne flowed in an open bar and endlessly replenished hors d'ouvres were proferred to us. As, thousands of miles away back in our Third World home, our countrymen were mired as floodwaters freely flowed in an open bar of death, ruining lives and ending some forever, and another endless helping of misery was being force-fed to our country.

Truly, tragedy is often marked by bitter irony.

My heart goes out to all who lost their belongings and homes. All who lost their loved ones. And all who lost their lives in this most cruel of random events.

And to my fellow bloggers who endured this catastrophe: unlike foreign news reports that tend to blur human suffering into yet another nameless, impersonal, sad but distant news item, your stories and your personal losses put a human face on this tragedy. I only became aware of the scope of this cataclysm from short news reports and truncated texts from home. Reading about your very personal, very real experiences made me aware of its depths, and it hits home.

This is a sad homecoming.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Full House

Pictured: Not me, not my dogs

If you bother to read profiles, you would have read that mine says "Harassed father to six psychotic dogs, and one snotty cat."

Make that seven dogs.

I've always wanted a Siberian Husky but, given the longevity of dogs, I've had to wait years for vacancies in my kennel. But Huskies just weren't available whenever a beloved member of my little pack flew off to Dog Heaven. True, just months ago I lost three new puppies to parvo, but they were quickly replaced by two Chows. Two stubborn, rambunctious brothers who have been my constant companions in the study room where I work, hammer out this blog, and surf for porn. I have spent more quality time with these two than any other dog I've ever owned; not just because I love them (oh, puh-leeeze), but more because I wanted to ensure I would not lose any more battles with parvo. So for the past two months they've been living in a dog crib behind me, snoring like pigs when they sleep, as I peck away at this keyboard.

There they will remain, quarantined from the rest of my mutts until I'm convinced they're in the safe zone. I have never mopped up and sprayed odor-concealer and picked up so much poo in my life. I must admit this is the first time I have ever taken this much of a hands-on approach to dog care, and fulfilled the "harassed father" moniker in my bio. Normally, once they're housebroken and more importantly, know who's boss, my dogs get relegated to the care of their yaya - my fortunately-doting maid - and only see me for the occasional hugs, playtime, and trips to the vet.
My children, if ever I have any, will most likely meet the same fate.

Crate training is not the same as housebreaking, though. While the Chows have made great progress in terms of obedience and potty times, they still have little "accidents" whenever I let them have a trial run of the house. So it's always back to the crate until they learn that pee-pee and poo-poo are a no-no in the housey.

All three of us are lucky that I got them at the start of an extended work hiatus. I don't acquire any new pets during toxic periods at work because one needs to devote sufficient quality time for bonding and training. It is imperative that new members of my canine clan learn to recognize me as the alpha dog, and that in our pack, my word is law.

Anyhow, I'm on the cusp of the last onslaught of work for the year. Looking at my project list, we'd be lucky to finish all productions by first week December. So as I was bracing for this last-quarter storm, I get a call from a friend:

"You like dogs, right?"
"Would you like a Siberian Husky?"

She might as well have asked me if I wanted a Lamborghini.

My friends know me a little too well, sometimes. Of the seven dogs and one cat in my current menagerie, half are adoptees entrusted to me by friends for sanctuary. The reasons cited range from "I can't keep the poor thing any more because my kid developed allergies to the fur." to "They won't let me keep pets at the new condo I'm moving to, eh." And all entreaties end with "I know naman you'll take good care of him."

I'm the fucking Angelina Jolie of dogs.

So now I have a new mouth to feed. Thank God none of them ever need to go to college. And good for this Sibe, I've always hankered for one of his kind (you couldn't get me to adopt a Rottweiler, a chihuahua, or a pit bull for love or money.) Sibes are a very friendly, clean, and most importantly, intelligent breed.

Just one catch at the moment, though. Sibes have a strong prey instinct, and must be introduced to small animals like cats at an early age. This Sibe is already a strapping one-year old, and the moment he and the cat locked eyes it was hate at first sight. All the dogs that have ever passed through this house have managed to accept my furry feline as a meowing member of the pack. For his sake, I hope it's not too late for him and this Husky to reach a détente.

Otherwise, I might end up with seven dogs. And a late, lamented Persian.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Rainbow Connections

While the rest of the civilized world seems to be on Facebook, I, along with the Tasadays and certain members of the Trobriand Islanders, have thus far resisted its siren call. It's not just because I'm antisocial; it's more because I'm not really interested to know that the dicks I hated in high school are still alive. Fat, ugly, and pathetic - but still alive, damn them.

Also, because "Discretion is the quintessence of propriety" is one of my favorite quotations of all time. Personally, if I wanted all my professional contacts, living family members, and remaining potential future-ex-wives to know I occasionally smoke the pole, I'd have recorded it on HD and sold it in Quiapo.

This is a non-issue, of course, for those of us who are out. But it does present a bit of a dilemma for those of us who are not. Belaboring the obvious, I might genuinely like someone who is brave enough not to hide his sexual preference from the world, but having him - and by extension his friends - on my list would be ticklish at best, damning at worst. Which is why, of course, the gay gods created Friendster, PlanetRomeo, and the late, lamented g4m.

Anyhow, those closeted/confused/unsure among us on FB should find this development... interesting :

"Are you quietly stalking someone and too dense to figure out their sexual orientation from Google searches, Flickr party photos and real-life gossip? Well, a couple of MIT geniuses invented just the tool for you.

The best part of Carter Jernigan and Behram Mistree's software, created for a research project, is that you don't even need to "friend" your target to figure out if he's gay. You simply need access to his friends list, which is made public by default on Facebook. In the students' test, which examined 947 profiles, the program identified all 10 of 10 men the students knew to be gay, but who had not declared so on Facebook, according to a summary in the Boston Globe."

If you're too lazy to click links, the Boston Globe summary says:

"Discussions of privacy often focus on how to best keep things secret, whether it is making sure online financial transactions are secure from intruders, or telling people to think twice before opening their lives too widely on blogs or online profiles. But this work shows that people may reveal information about themselves in another way, and without knowing they are making it public. Who we are can be revealed by, and even defined by, who our friends are: *if all your friends are over 45, you’re probably not a teenager; if they all belong to a particular religion, it’s a decent bet that you do, too. The ability to connect with other people who have something in common is part of the power of social networks, but also a possible pitfall. If our friends reveal who we are, that challenges a conception of privacy built on the notion that there are things we tell, and things we don’t.

The idea behind the MIT work, done in 2007, is as old as the adage that birds of a feather flock together. For years, sociologists have known of the “homophily principle” - the tendency for similar people to group together. People of one race tend to have spouses, confidants, and friends of the same race, for example. Jernigan and Mistree downloaded data from the Facebook network, choosing as their sample people who had joined the MIT network and were in the classes 2007-2011 or graduate students. They were interested in three things people frequently fill in on their social network profile: their gender, a category called “interested in” that they took to denote sexuality, and their friend links.

Using that information, they “trained” their computer program, analyzing the friend links of 1,544 men who said they were straight, 21 who said they were bisexual, and 33 who said they were gay. Gay men had proportionally more gay friends than straight men, giving the computer program a way to infer a person’s sexuality based on their friends."

Or as Friendster might say : "Show me your friends, and I'll show you how fruity you are."

Further down, the article states:

"Privacy has become a growing and evolving concern as social networks learn how to deal with the fact that they provide a resource that brings people together, but also may endanger privacy in ways they did not anticipate. Social networks like Facebook already give people power over that information, with privacy features that allow people to hide their profiles, and even make their list of friends invisible to outsiders, as well as from select friends.

But there are limits to online privacy, and ultimately, say some experts, people will simply have to weigh the costs and benefits of living online.

'You can do damage to your reputation with social networking data, and other people can do damage to you. I do think that there’s been a very fast learning curve - people are quickly learning the dos and don’ts of Internet behavior,' said Jason Kaufman, a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University who is studying a set of Facebook data. 'Potentially everything you ever do on the Internet will live forever. I like to think we’ll all learn to give each other a little more slack for our indiscretions and idiosyncrasies.' "

See you on Facebook.

Or not.

*Bold mine

Monday, September 21, 2009

A September To Remember

I was looking at the date today and wondered why it sounded important, like a birthday or some anniversary. And I'm usually very bad at these things.

And then, yes.

September 21, 1972. Proclamation 1081: The declaration of Martial Law.

I wonder how many of us consider this as just another holiday, one in a series of long weekends we've been having of late. I won't preach because I've never been a political animal and, like most of us, seem content to merely spew political commentaries without taking any concrete action.

I'll make this a short entry because discussing politics, while enlivening, is often like gargling with sewage. I'll also leave intelligent and learned discourse on the matter to qualified experts such as MLQIII. His blog is most informative and thought-provoking, but I must admit that while I follow it, I can only take small doses of The Daily Dose. Just reading about the reprehensibility and repugnancy of our local political players leaves me feeling ill and soiled.

So I'll stick to what I know, and what I know is this: the fact that I had to remember that today marks the day a shadow enveloped this country and held sway for 20 years is very telling, and very disturbing. The fact that I had to remember means I had begun to forget.

We must never forget. Especially in these dark days when the spectre of Marcosian Rule looms over a new generation.

We cannot be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. For if we do, then we truly have no future.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Esposas, Posas

That's an old Spanish saying my grandfather was fond of reciting - usually when my grandmother was safely out of earshot. Then again, he lived a full century, while abuelita took advantage of the "till death do us part" escape clause at 87, so I guess he wasn't the only one chafing at the bit.

Making fun of my dead grandparents aside, I'm often curious and fascinated to learn about what it's like on the other side. No, not that other side - I mean what it's like being married. To someone whose genitals are different from yours.

We often work very late in my field, and while we have been doing this for years, it still amazes me when I overhear the production staff arguing with their wives on the phone over why he's still at the office and what time is he coming home and why,why,why does he have to stay so late. I'm pretty sure this is a conversation repeated ad nauseam all over the world, regardless of whether one is a garbageman or a senator - not that there's a world of difference between the two, except one takes out the trash, while the other generates it.

But I digress.

So during a smoking break in that recent all-nighter we pulled, I asked my PM and my editor this question: "What's the one thing you miss most after you got married?" Their answer was quick and it was the same: "My freedom."

Pressing further, I asked if they meant freedom in the sense that they can't see other people anymore. But then again, marriage vows have never been a reliable deterrent to extra-marital affairs, and men will always be boys. So that wasn't it.

An object in possession seldom retains
the same charm that it had in pursuit.
~Pliny the Younger, Letters

What they lost when they gained a family was the freedom that marks singlehood. The general kind of freedom to do whatever the hell you want, whenever you want, wherever you want, with whomever you want, as many times as you want. They lamented that even a totally innocent, stress-relieving couple of beers with the boys will inevitably become a raging issue with the raving missus. And it doesn't seem to matter whether the spouse is a housewife or a working woman, as their respective wives are. I imagined the stay-at-home missus, weary of being trapped at home living a life of monotonous domestic drudgery, would be the kind more resentful of a husband's relatively more colorful day (and occasional night.) But apparently, keeping tabs on a husband's whereabouts and demanding his soonest return to the coop is as hard-wired into a wife as the daily litany of bitching over the household budget.

Any intelligent woman who reads the marriage contract,
and then goes into it,  deserves all the consequences.
~Isadora Duncan

They shook their heads wondering what became of the sweet, understanding girl they once wooed, and why and how that shrieking harpy they wake up to in the mornings took her place. I wondered if this was a strictly-feminine thing, or whether it went beyond the battle of the sexes and crossed gender and sexual orientation.

That's the funny thing about what's meant to be a lifelong commitment. I don't think the guys understood that the person they made those vows to would not be the same person years down the road. She would become a mother, and her priority would no longer be them but their progeny. They themselves did not anticipate that they would not be the same person, either. From being carefree bachelors, they have chosen to fulfill multiple roles long played by many others before them : hard-working breadwinners, fathers, hen-pecked husbands, besieged son-in-laws. Marriage is certainly a life-changing commitment, but how dramatic - and acceptable - those changes might be is anyone's guess. Hence, the gamble.

When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part.
~G.B. Shaw, Getting Married, 1908

We, on the other hand, rail on and on about why gay marriages should be allowed, but I've never been too keen on formalizing my relationships before Church, State, and Society. Neither am I eager to seek their benediction. The beauty of a gay commitment, to me, is that it is precisely not legal nor religious ties that bind you. It is not the power of Christ nor the edicts of Caesar that compel you to stay together and stick it out through thick and thin, in sickness and in health. You are bound only by your mutual, conscious, and voluntary decision to choose to stay with someone, tempered with the freedom to walk away any day with no guilt over collateral damage such as innocent offspring. This freedom to stay or go away on a moment's notice is also what makes a gay commitment a double-edged sword of Damocles. It hangs by the merest of threads, the strength of which depends on the commitment of the two individuals involved.

Marriage is a great institution,
but I'm not ready for an institution.
~Mae West

This is in no way an indictment of marriage. It's an enduring institution and by Darwinian law, there is a reason it has survived for millennia. But even the fittest institution is not fit for all. Not all straight men are the marrying kind. Some notoriously fear commitment. Some fear making a big mistake that would be costly and difficult to get out of - if getting out is an option at all. And others fear finding out that, after all's said and done, love may not be enough in itself.

At family reunions, whenever I am asked that inevitable "When are you going to get married?" question, I have found a new stock response: "Bakit ako magpapakasal sa isang taong di ko naman kaanu-ano?"

Marriage means commitment. Of course, so does insanity.
~Author Unknown

All our lovers began as strangers; I wish they would not end as such. When you wake up next to a total stranger and it's not a one-night stand, then you know your relationship is in trouble. And not all of us have the freedom to just walk away. It's hard enough to uncouple from a lover. With a spouse, the knot you have to untie is of Gordian complications.

But lest you think I'm such a jaded old sourpuss, let me just end this ramble with a final, uplifting quote on the ties that bind. It applies to us all - single, married, gay, bi, straight, man, woman, mineral:

Chains do not hold a marriage together.
It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads
which sew people together through the years.
~Simone Signoret

As you sew, so shall you reap.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Midnight Toil

It is half-past midnight and I am writing this from the editing suite. My editor, my PM*, and I are pulling another all-nighter for a rush job that has to be approved tomorrow for airing the day after.

It's one of those hectic yet curiously non-toxic days. I was up at 6:00 a.m., was at client's by 8:00, got through 4 briefings for upcoming projects before the big client presentation at 10:30, then a couple more briefings right afterwards followed by an interlock**. Then it was off to the studio for a jingle revision, then pre-work with my editor, then home to finish rendering some animation, then back here to piece the rush job together in time for tomorrow's interlock.

I should be a wreck but I am oddly at peace.

Work is a godsend sometimes. And I don't mean its material rewards.

Work helps me take my mind off my private fears and worries and gives me something else to focus on. It makes me feel productive, that I've done something with my time today aside from plumbing the internet till my eyes bleed. It gives me a sense of control over things that have a definite beginning and a definite end. A sharp contrast to the rudderless ship that is my personal life, adrift in the doldrums, waiting for fair winds and seeking the North Star in an empty, moonless sky.

Purpose. For whatever it's worth, work gives you a sense of purpose. It may be shallow and insignificant when set against the panorama of The Big Picture, but God, as they say, is in the details.

At its noblest, the purpose of work is to give some meaning to being. And while I normally have no problem whatsoever doing absolutely nothing, I don't want absolutely everything to be nothing.

So thank God for work. For idle minds are indeed the devil's workshop, and mine needs a reprieve from the hammering of my personal demons.

And with that - gotta get back to work.

*Production Manager, aka the guy you ask if ten more Frappuccinos from Starbucks and two packs of cigs are still within the production budget.
** Interlock: The process wherein Client and Agency come together to view a communications material, usually followed by Client rendering said material unrecognizable as Creative slits its wrists while Accounts takes notes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Altered States

Vince, the Discreet Manila blogger, posted an interesting entry in his blog yesterday asking if recreational drug use is truly a hallmark of the PLU community.

Since I haven't been a scenester for a good while, it just made me think about drugs in general.

I eschew drugs, not because I'm a goody two-shoes, but because I already have an addictive personality and getting into substances would almost certainly lead to abuse.

That said, I agree with what Knox wrote in the Comments Section about trying most things once, especially while one is young and can afford to be stupid.

Someone made me sniff poppers once and my heart palpitated so wildly I actually thought I was going to die. Hence, that was my first and last time to use it, and every time I get a whiff of that distinctive metallic smell I retch.

While E remains the parteeeeee pill du jour , I am no fan of it, either. But I won't begrudge anyone else using it to heighten their clubbing experience. After all, isn't alcohol a form of narcotic itself? But since alcohol is a no-no while you're on E, I've always chosen the booze. That won't change even though I'm presently an unwilling teetotaler.

My most memorable encounter with drugs happened at work, of all places. It was the last day of an out-of-town agency planning session and we were getting ready for the big lunch with the big bosses. Bernard, one of the CDs, casually asked me if I'd like a brownie. Not thinking, I took half and went on my merry way. Lunch passed uneventfully until I reached for a glass of water and, very Matrix-like, saw my hand do a ramped double-exposure. "Strange," I thought, and reached for the glass again. When I put it down on the table, the glass made a reverberating *BOOM*, and then the table started to levitate.

That's when the realization hit me. Oh, Jeebuz, the brownie!!! To make matters worse, I remembered I had taken it on an empty stomach. It felt like I was trying to jump out of my own skin at that point but I managed to pull myself together and look around for Bernard. I saw him two tables away, sunglasses on, leaning back casually in his chair.

I galumphed over to where he was, each of my footfalls thundering in my ears like an elephant stomping on steel drums. Leaning over his prostate form, I whispered:

"Has it kicked in for you?"

Oh, God.

He must've seen the stricken look on my face because he mumbled "Don't fight it. Just go with the flow." Easy for him to say. He was a CD; I was just some Copy Group Head.

Fighting back panic, I gingerly made my way back to my own table hoping to sit down quietly and wait the trip out. As I watched my steps, I could literally see the ground falling away from beneath my feet, as I felt myself floating higher and higher into the air. I looked up and saw the mountains vividly detaching themselves from the skies, in razor-sharp clarity not even HD could match. I looked around and it seemed that someone had pushed the Saturation and Contrast levels of the world to maximum. It was...surreal.

Finally seated, I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths to calm down. And that's when the Chairman sat down next to me.

If you've never started tripping on hash while the Chairman of your company is engaging you in conversation about corporate matters, I suggest you skip the experience. It was a tribute to my presentation skills that I was able to feign lucidity and formulate halfway-coherent responses to the Big Boss' many questions, all the while fighting the biggest mind-altering trip of my life.

Thankfully he eventually got up to circulate, none the wiser that he had just been conversing with a badly spaced-out employee in the middle of an important corporate event at high noon. I stumbled to the washroom, trying to splash the trip away, but to no avail. I was stoned all the way back to the office, where I slumped on my desk enduring the biggest thumping headache of my life as the trip finally wound down to its crashing end.

Across the room, my boss stood frowning at me. But he never said a word. Well, what could he say? After all, he was always the one who passed the joint around whenever we'd go out. He knew what went down, but let it slide. He knew me well enough to know it would never happen again.

And it never did.

With all mind-altering substances, I think "caution" is the key word, with "moderation" being the next. That should go for booze as well.  I don't condone their use, but recreational drugs obviously serve some purpose.  Like love, that biggest of all mind-altering substances, rec drugs are meant to artificially enhance your existence for a short while. To take you out of yourself and experience a different state of being. A higher state of consciousness, even. A temporary escape from reality.

It's when you make it your permanent reality that you're screwed.

At any rate, I don't need my reality altered.

It's already surreal as it is.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Milk of Human Kindness

No, not that kind of milk, you filthy-minded louts.

I'm talking about charity and its cousin, compassion.

Much as I can be a right-royal asshole, I can just as easily be a bleeding-heart teddy bear. Mental, but Mentos. Hard on the outside, chewy on the inside.

I had always been a selfish child, but children by their nature are selfish. Sharing is a concept that is taught and, hopefully, learned.

For what it's worth, over the years I have been blessed with the kindness of strangers. The guidance of mentors, the generosity of my betters. And somewhere along the way the importance of "doing the right thing" was imprinted upon me.

"Noblesse oblige" comes to mind. As Wiki defines it :

"Noblesse oblige" is generally used to imply that with wealth, power and prestige come responsibilities. The phrase is sometimes used derisively, in the sense of condescending or hypocritical social responsibility. In American English especially, the term has also been applied more broadly to those who are capable of simple acts to help another, usually one who is less fortunate.

In ethical discussion, it is sometimes used to summarize a moral economy wherein privilege must be balanced by duty towards those who lack such privilege or who cannot perform such duty. Finally, it has been used recently primarily to refer to public responsibilities of the rich, famous and powerful, notably to provide good examples of behaviour or to exceed minimal standards of decency.

In short, to whom much has been given, much is also expected.

Ah, expectations. Great expectations.

Being neither rich, famous, nor powerful - much less from any noble lineage - this should be the least of my concerns. So perhaps it is a variation of the infamous "liberal guilt"*that is at work here. But whatever it is, I cannot help but be moved by the plight of others, and usually - though by no means always - when I am in a position to help, I do so. Not out of any Christian piety nor self-righteousness, but simply because it is the right thing to do. The same way spitting on a politician is the right and decent thing to do. But I digress.

Nothing ever comes free in this world, however. Not even charity. People do expect things in return for their generosity.

I, for instance, expect some measure of gratitude. Not groveling. Gratitude. A simple "Thank you" would do.

I also expect not to be lied to, and I expect people not to abuse my kindness.

Expectation, as we know, is the mother of disappointment.

Common sense should dictate when enough is enough. The caveat about charity, however, is that there is never enough. It is a bottomless pit of needs and wants. It is Oliver Twist holding out his soup bowl and pleading "Please, sir, can I have some more?"

Compassion, alas, can grow thin. And so can charity.

I have no Messianic Complex and harbor no illusions about saving the world. After all, "God helps those who help themselves." Well, I am obviously not God, and people do tend to help themselves - to other people's kindnesses.

I've shunned people whom I've helped in the past when it became clear that they were either not doing anything to improve their situation or were simply content to coast along on free rides. I feel no guilt over that - I'm not Mother Teresa. And I'm sure even she would've browbeaten a beggar or two if she found out they were just taking her for a ride.

I know that if you teach a man to fish , you feed him for life. What's riling me at the moment is the time it's taking for certain people to learn something other than baiting their hooks.

Whenever we open our hearts, we open ourselves to abuse. It's been said that you must give until it hurts. In my case, it's not so much that it hurts, as much as it irks. In my giving, something's gotta give.

What is it again that we pave the road to hell with?

I'm just a soul whose intentions are good. Oh, Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood.

*Liberal guilt is a perfectly natural phenomenon exclusive to homosexuals and Grungefags by which people feel guilty for being born and/or raised in more culturally, economically , socially or genetically favorable circumstances. Basically, it's taking for granted that being a white, wealthy, healthy, straight man makes you more lucky than everybody else, and therefore that you should feel guilty for existing, since it is common knowledge that you are responsible for people's shit when they are less lucky than you. Therefore, people affected by liberal guilt are responsible for the problems of the entire universe. From Encyclopedia Dramatica

Thursday, September 10, 2009


A working day today for me.

Evening Adagios, ironically, on the iTunes at 7 a.m., coffee and cigs both already hot and piping.

Still relaxed - no client interface today. Which means I can go to the editing suite in my slippers if I'm so inclined.

The rain never stopped yesterday and so the compound has once again turned into a tree-lined lake. No worries there - the lovely thing about doing official client business is I get to have a driver and a service vehicle. So none of that hassle of duking it out on Manila's flooded streets today.

I should get up earlier in the mornings. My disposition seems to be much better at this time, my perspectives clearer, my mood lighter. But since I awoke at 3 a.m. last night and took the pups out for a short sniff-n-splash in the flooded garden, I'll probably be nodding off later at around 1 p.m. No place like the arctic editing suite for that.

Ah. A few shafts of sunlight pierce through the still-gloomy skies

Good day, everyone.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


September 9, 2009. 3 a.m.

999 @ The Witching Hour.

I just remembered we're still in the middle of the Chinese Ghost Month. Although the peak was supposed to be last September 2, the ghoulish party won't be over till the 18th.


I didn't feed any hungry ghosts. I'm not even Chinese.


I like to think the incessant blagadags going on outside the window are just the overripe mangoes falling from the tree.


There goes another. It doesn't help, though, that ghost hunters say that loud thuds and thumps and knocks are some of the audible ways spirits communicate with the living. And that big old mango trees are one of the favorite kinds of trees that elementals like to inhabit.

It also doesn't help that all my Third Eye pals say that whenever we talk of ghosts, they tend to gather round and listen in.


Interestingly, I also finished an anime double-feature earlier in the evening: Spirited Away* and Grave of The Fireflies**.


Cell phone buzzes.

Text from our cashier. From a business venture that I have left for dead.

Now there's one ghastly enterprise I truly wish would stop haunting me.

My grandfather always did say "Never fear the dead. Fear the living."

All quiet now. Time for bed.

*A full-length animated feature from Studio Ghibli, released in 2001. It won the 2002 Oscar for Best Animated Feature (only the second Oscar ever awarded for Best Animated Feature), the first anime film to win an Academy Award, the first (and so far only) non-English speaking animation to win, and the only winner of that award to be traditionally animated or win among five nominees (in every other year there were three nominees). The film also won the Golden Bear at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival (tied with Bloody Sunday). Spirited Away overtook Titanic in the Japanese box office to become the highest-grossing film in Japanese history.

**"Hotaru no Haka" is a 1988 animated film written and directed by Isao Takahata .This is the first film produced by Shinchosha, who hired Studio Ghibli to do the animation production work. It is an adaptation of the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Akiyuki Nosaka, intended as a personal apology to the author's own sister.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Morning with Mozart

It's raining outside and Mozart is on my iTunes. Yes, music soothes the savage beast, but as of this writing, this beast needs little soothing. I'd just gotten off the phone with client and discovered that my presentation isn't tomorrow, as I thought, but next week. It's aaaaaalllllll good, because I finished the Powerpoint thingy last night and emailed it already. So today I just have to contend with some minor paperwork and long-overdue filing. I've also finished my long, long overdue billing statements and should be able to replenish my funds after all the abono I made to suppliers.

This is the pace I like.

Of course, this could all turn on a dime, but I am relishing this moment along with my third cup of java for the day.

Now if I can only get a blowjob.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Old Friends

"I was told love should hold old friends."
        - EBTG, Old Friends

Just wrapped up a small party at the house celebrating the successive Virgo birthdays in the group. Considering how anal-retentive that Zodiac sign is and how much at cross-purposes it is with mine, it's surprising to realize how I have so many enduring friends born under its influence.

Truth be told, I wasn't too keen earlier on having company over, grousing over my impending deadlines and the fact that my lazy ass still won't kick into full-on work mode.

The highlight of the evening seemed to be everyone commenting on how skinny I now look. Take note: skinny, not lean. Skinny. I stopped counting at the 7th person who commented. Lucky 7 and  all that.

Coming from a bunch of old friends I hadn't seen in quite a long while - and who have packed on some pounds in the interim - I suppose I should've been flattered. But since my current slenderness is not the product of hours at the gym but rather a combination of stress, lack of drinking, and my general disdain for food, I wasn't exactly jumping for joy.

I was ready to spend the night resentfully nursing my Royal Tru-Orange while everyone else got tipsy on red wine, but was pleasantly surprised as the evening progressed to realize I was laughing. Again. After a long, long while. I'd forgotten the sound of my own infamously-boisterous laughter.

We talked, and talked, about this and that. We marveled at their pre-teen kids and my now-teenaged nephews. We spoke of ghosts and politics, of the Great American Depression, of my desire to stage Dangerous Liaisons with an all-gay male cast.  We talked of many things, of cabbages and kings. And why the sea is boiling hot. And whether pigs have wings.

And I laughed and I guffawed, snorted and bellowed. And all without a drop of alcohol in me. I had never really needed the aid of drink to be loquacious, for even sober I'd often be so manic people thought I was high. But that seemed such a long, long time ago.

Tonight, without distilled spirits, in the company of old friends, I distilled my fractured thoughts into an epiphany clearer than vodka. I saw my friends and myself not through a glass, darkly, but face to face. Now some things I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Obviously, I'm not drunk. Just happy, for a few short hours, to be the man-child I once was. In the company of old friends who knew me when.

It was good to see them again.
It was good to be me again.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Do You Give Good Face?

The French, as you know, are glad to die for love. Hence, quelle quelle surprise that their term for an orgasm is le petit mort. Little death. As in, every time you make me cum, I die a little.

Anyhow, you know what an O-Face is, right? It's that expression on your mug as you approach - or are in the midst of - an orgasm.

Now unless you're Hayden Kho or incredibly narcissistic, I very much doubt if most of us have seen ourselves make those little faces of death, much less immortalize them in portraits.

Photographer Giulio Scorio has done just that, in his series entitled Faces of Ecstasy. The blurb on his site says “Faces of Ecstasy is a series of portraits taken while the subject is mid-orgasm. All orgasms are real. What is happening behind the scenes is for the viewer to decide.”

Below, a few more samplings for your viewing pleasure. You can see the rest at his official site. Enjoy!

Link courtesy of Homotography

Thursday, September 3, 2009

You Light Up My Life

"Why do you smoke so much?"
"I'm trying to quit cocksucking."

I've always lived around smokers. One of my earliest memories was the comforting orange glow of my dad's cigarette in the dark, as he sat watching us drift off to sleep. His smoking habit didn't stop me from being taught that smoking was bad, just like drinking was bad, just like playing cards was bad. So I sailed through high school and college uneventfully as a non-smoker. Pretty much a square, non-smoking choirboy.

The first time a cigarette ever touched my lips was when I was around 13 or so - with my father's permission, at that. Actually, it was his idea. And no, he wasn't trying to pass on his lifelong habit to me. It was New Year's and he had taught me how to light firecrackers using a lit cigarette impaled on a barbecue stick. I had to puff to keep the ciggie alive and my firecrackers going.

The next time a cigarette touched my lips was years and years later. I had entered Advertising, which  is like entering the brimstone-shrouded gate to Dante's Inferno. Everyone from the Chairman to the messengers smoked. But even though I hung out with my co-workers for the usual after-work drinks and chatter in a cumulous cloud of nicotine, not once did I ever get the urge to light up. It just wasn't my thing.

An exception was the one time I was sputtering with rage at my Art Director. I grabbed a stick from a startled colleague and puffed furiously to occupy my trembling hands and keep them from wrapping themselves around my A.D.'s neck.

Six more years would pass before another stick would meet my lips. I had already moved out of my parents' house by then and was sharing a pad with two smokers - one of whom was my first serious lover. I don't remember whatever possessed me to light up - it wasn't peer pressure, for everyone was shocked to see me with a lit cigarette in my hand. You'd think Shirley Temple herself had lit up and downed a stiff martini the way they reacted. But that's because I had always been known as the fitness buff, the healthy lifestyle guy, the token non-smoker. I wasn't enough of a clean-living prick to lecture everyone else on their smoking habit. I didn't mind it at all; I just didn't do it myself.

I do remember that the first pack I ever bought for myself was Philip Morris (I've long since become a Marlboro man). The menthol was a literal headrush, but I was strictly a weekend smoker. Once Saturday was over, so were the cigs. The pack would remain untouched until the following Friday. No cravings, no nothing.

That all changed one fine day. I had long suspected my live-in lover of carrying on an affair with our common gym instructor, but naturally all my accusations had been angrily dismissed. So one day I decided to go home unannounced over my lunch break. I waited in the house for my lover's car to drive into the garage, and heard two car doors slamming shut. I casually walked to the front door, opened it for the surprised twosome, and wordlessly went back to the office.

Confrontations and recriminations and one "let's talk this over" session later, I was a bona fide smoker.

I haven't stopped smoking since.

As a matter of fact, I've made up for lost time by becoming a chain-smoker. Ironically, three of my chain-smoking buds - the bestest of best friends I ever had - have long given up or cut drastically down on the filthy habit. I, who was the last among them to take up the hobby, steadfastly smoke on.

I'd say smoking is a good metaphor for my so-called lovelife. It's unhealthy, it's killing me, and the thrill is long gone.

And yet...

I smoke because it's a habit. I smoke because I have an addictive personality. I smoke because the swirling haze obscures the spectre of my personal demons.

I smoke because there's no one to kiss and I don't have sex anymore, anyway. I smoke because the doctor said I can't drink any more alcohol until next year and so it is my last remaining vice. I smoke because I wish my heart were as black as my lungs.

And so I huff. And I puff. Until I blow my house down.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

To Err Is Human, To Repeat, Bovine

I was going to post about my long-standing rut when I was shaken out of my reverie by  this news report: Imelda Wants BongBong to Be President.

Delusional? The instinctive answer would be a resounding "Hell-to-the-yeah!!!" But then I reminded myself that stranger things have happened in this godforsaken neck of the woods.

After all, is this not the same country that, instead of putting her out to pasture, elected her daughter to the Senate, and the son in question to the governorship of their home province, and from there to Congress? Is this not the same country that propelled La Pequeña  to the Presidency the Imeldific now dreams of reclaiming for her clan?

I've always thought that the Philippines was the sort of magical-realist country that Gabriel Garcia-Marquez novels are made of, except the magia tends to be more of the mala kind. I had been having some reservations about NoyNoy Aquino running for President , but now that Madame seems to be indicating some ambitious plans afoot for a Marcos Restoration, well, NoyNoy, why the hell not?

The cattle call has been sounded. Time to see which way the herd will go.

Aquino Vs. Marcos: The Rematch

It'd be funny if it weren't so depressing.

And indeed, 'tis true, 'tis true: the more things change, the more they stay insane.

And they're going to stay that way till the cows come home.